Embargo Watch

Keeping an eye on how scientific information embargoes affect news coverage

How I got two embargoes lifted early: Cardiology journals do the right thing

with one comment

acc logoMuch of the time, when I hear about embargoes lifting early, I work backward, asking journals what happened, or trying to figure it out on my own when they can’t or won’t say. (Recently, I didn’t have to ask, because my own group had broken the embargo, accidentally.)

But last week, while working on a story, the early lifts came at my request. It’s the story of journals doing the right thing.

On Tuesday, November 27, at 12:51 p.m. Eastern, the American College of Cardiology (ACC) sent out this message:

Due to the inadvertent early publication of the statement from the HEART Group, the embargo has been lifted on this press release and the related statement. Please note, participating journals can post the statement immediately but may adhere to existing production schedules.

The ACC was referring to a statement “urging appropriate language in study results” that more than two dozen journals had agreed to publish. The statement had originally embargoed for December 3, but when I had poked around, I had found that the European Heart Journal, one of the participating journals, had posted the statement on November 23. The EHJ had made a note about the error on the statement’s abstract, but the whole PDF was still available on their site.

I asked the ACC about this, and whether it meant the embargo had been broken. (It turned out the journals were all posting the statement on December 1, which meant, I reminded the ACC, that the December 3 embargo wasn’t justifiable either, but that soon became moot.) They acted swiftly, letting me know they’d lift the embargo, and sending out the note above shortly thereafter.

There was one additional wrinkle: The statement referred to a longer review of the subject in Clinical Cardiology by Harvard Medical School’s Christopher Cannon and a colleague. That, the ACC said, was still embargoed, which I said was a shame, since I wanted to refer to it in my story to give my readers context. They were sympathetic, but Clinical Cardiology is a Wiley title, not published by the ACC, which meant I had to check with them.

I did the next best thing. I was interviewing Cannon anyway, so I asked him whether the embargo could be lifted. He checked with the journal’s editor, who said that was fine. So I interviewed Cannon and wrote my story.

Contrast this with what happened recently at Pediatrics, and you’ll see why this is an example of journals doing the right thing instead of stubbornly insisting on an embargo to draw attention to themselves. It’s tempting to say it’s because I was calling from Reuters, but in the Pediatrics case, it was NPR — hardly an unknown media entity.

Kudos, cardiologists — for lifting this, and even more importantly for shining a light on the importance of language in studies.


Written by Ivan Oransky

December 4, 2012 at 11:02 am

Posted in Uncategorized

One Response

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  1. Great story and story behind the story, Ivan!

    John R Platt (@johnrplatt)

    December 4, 2012 at 11:15 am

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